Music and Movement as Curriculum: Starting our Day with Singing!

Our founder, Dr. Nancy Benson, created a unique Treehouse Learning ritual called Big Circle. At 8:45 each morning, infant-kindergarten classrooms would gather as a community in the Big Room to welcome each other in songs, movement, counting, connecting and belonging. Siblings sat together. Friends waved to each other. Classrooms rotated each week leading Big Circle, which began with a Welcome Song, followed by a big body/ gross motor song (i.e. Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes), fine-motor song (i.e. Itsy, Bitsy Spider), followed by a counting song (i.e. Five Little Ducks), and finally, classroom dismissal from youngest to oldest, to the tune of “This Little Light of Mine.”

Big Circle is an intentional and purposeful ritual. The songs varied by day but the routine was predictable, consistent, and enjoyable. Learning happens in the context of relationships, when we feel a sense of safety, belonging, and community. Singing is a form of play, and learning happens easily and organically through music. Plus, who doesn’t feel inspired to begin their day singing like Julie Andrews, alive with music!

Big Circle songs are intentionally selected in order to: 

  • Exercise our large and small body parts to support the development of fine and gross motor skills and support the physical health of our bodies through movement. 
  • Invite children into developing literacy skills through rhyming words and phenomic awareness. 
  • Build the organizational structures of our brains through memorization, repetition, and recall.
  • Build math and pre-math concepts like forwards/backward counting, as well as concepts of big and small, embodied through movement. (A pre-cursor to understanding addition and subtraction is that a number can also be big or small)
  • Develop fine motor skills in finger and hand movements to later support things like collecting peas on a fork or holding a pencil
  • Foster a sense of community, belonging, and purpose 

Movement, Music, and Play as Curriculum

At Treehouse Learning, music, movement, and play is foundational to our curriculum and vision of co-creating the world we want to see. Music is incorporated into our day to mark transitions, express gratitude before meals, and cue clean-up or rest times. We also experience music as a learning opportunity rooted in joyful connection.

We invite our entire community to share in building singing rituals with children! Children remember the connection of singing together, not whether someone sings well or not. We invite everyone to belt out a lullaby channeling their best Julie Andrews! 

Here are some of the reasons we sing with children

  • Community singing is a powerful and transformative tool for healing collective trauma. According to this interview with Dr. Bassel Van der Kolk on Your Parenting Mojo, collective trauma is held in the body and can be healed by engaging our bodies through singing and engaging with community. 
  • Singing benefits human beings of all ages by stimulating our vagus nerve, which regulates our nervous system, as well as integrating our brains to allow our “upstairs” brain to light up and learn. 
  • Musical elements build mathematics skills through rhythm, beat, tempo, and tune, and basic musical skills can be learned by any human being with a growth mindset
  • Music, movement, and play support people’s positive physical, cognitive, social and emotional development and well-being.
  • The benefits of singing are shared by human beings of all ages

Treehouse Learning Welcome Song

Welcome to Treehouse
Learning and Growing
Where we play, create, explore, have fun,
Care for one another. 
We belong to each other
All human beings who matter
Because we are
A Treehouse Family

Why this song? 

  • Welcome to Treehouse… Learning and Growing
    • An homage to our founder, Dr. Nancy Benson’s legacy of always insisting that the term “TreehouseLearning” remain forever united! Body motions for “learning” and “growing” encourage children to reach forward with big arm circles and then reach up high. Children will develop into balancing on their toes once they develop core strength.
  • Where we play, create, explore, have fun
    • Nature designed play as the most efficient and effective method of learning! Motions include small finger and hand movements, sign language, and an invitation to smile together. We are intentional about building a culture that supports balance and well-being for all/
  • Care for one another: 
    • We cross our arms to hug our own bodies because crossing the midlines of our bodies supports brain integration. We care for ourselves, we care for one another, and we care for the entire world around us, including the materials and resources we use, and the world around us.
  • We belong to each other: 
    • Our motions cross our hearts and then arms cross our bodies to wave at another person. We are intentional about building a community of inclusion and belonging, where we cultivate empathy and build awareness around moving towards a more just world. We belong to ourselves, each other, and the world
  • All human beings who matter: 
    • We touch our heads, hearts, and bodies to remember we are each a whole person, with thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and we support the balanced development across learning domains. We support whole-person development and thriving through the balanced integration of our brains, hearts, bodies, and spirits.
  • Because we are A “Treehouse Family”: 
    • As a proper noun, “Treehouse Family” both skirts the ingrained expectations and demonstrates our orientation towards natural growth and maturation of childhood.

Related Images: